Onaje Allan Gumbs is highly respected among jazz musicians as a consummate pianist and thoughtful composer. This CD consists of 14 original compositions, covering a wide span of musical styles. His core band includes saxophonist Roger Byam, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Billy Kilson, though the musicians vary from one track to another. The strongest materials consists of songs in a post-bop setting, such as a the thunderous "Healing Zone," the driving "Innerchange" (which would have been a natural for Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers had Gumbs worked for the drummer) and the delightful jazz waltz "Crystal Images" (which substitutes Marcus McLaurine on bass and George Gray on drums while adding trumpeter Eddie Allen). Gumbs' Brazilian flavored songs work equally well, including the easygoing samba "Virgo Rising" and the crisp bossa nova "Sol Brilho," the latter featuring guitarist Romero Lubambo, alto saxophonist Sadao Watanabe and percussionist Café. Perhaps the most striking track is Gumbs' only piano solo of the sessions, the adventurous "Playtime." As Gumbs ventures into crossover settings, things are less consistent. "Maybe Next Year" is a pleasant ballad featuring vocalist Branice McKenzie, though the thoughtful poetry of Sharrif Simmons in "All I Hear (Quiet Passion)" is backed by a smooth jazz groove that quickly grows tiresome. Gumbs also adds a superfluous synthesizer to several tracks, most of which would have sounded better without it. Even with these minor reservations, the musicianship that went into the making of this CD has to be appreciated and fans of Gumbs' earlier work as a leader should snap up this release without hesitation.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden